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Pawlenty appoints Anderson to Supreme Court
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G. Barry Anderson was named Friday to the Minnesota Supreme Court by Gov. Pawlenty. Anderson is currently a member of the state Court of Appeals. (MPR Photo/Michael Khoo)
Gov. Tim Pawlenty Friday announced the appointment of G. Barry Anderson to fill a vacancy on the Minnesota Supreme Court. Anderson currently serves on the state Court of Appeals and will replace outgoing Supreme Court Associate Justice James Gilbert.

St. Paul, Minn. — Barry Anderson has served on the Court of Appeals since 1998, when then-Gov. Arne Carlson appointed him to the position. Prior to that, he'd been an attorney in private practice as well as the city attorney for Hutchinson. Gov. Pawlenty praised Anderson for a "distinguished" record -- and noted Anderson's roots in rural Minnesota.

"You want judges to have proper decorum and conduct themselves in a judicial manner. But also, it helps, I think, to have a willingness and ability to do outreach and to connect with people," Pawlenty said, "so they can better understand the judiciary and relate to it. And I think he brings a lot to the table in that regard as well."

Pawlenty has made more than a dozen judicial appointments since taking office in 2003, but Anderson is his first pick for an appellate court seat. In accepting the position, Anderson thanked the governor, and addressed the challenge of serving on the state's highest court with a note of humility.

"It's not perfect. It's a human institution, this thing we call justice. And it is my goal to bring what limited skills I have to help make that process a success," Anderson said.

It's a human institution, this thing we call justice. And it is my goal to bring what limited skills I have to help make that process a success.
- G. Barry Anderson, new Supreme Court justice

The role of the judiciary has taken on a renewed importance in the last year, beginning with a Massachusetts decision to allow same-sex marriages in that state. Since then, opponents of gay marriage have criticized "judicial activism," which they say has allowed a handful of judges to overturn duly-enacted public laws.

Anderson says his approach to jurisprudence lies, more or less, on the other side of the spectrum, towards "judicial restraint." But he says he's not prepared to tie himself down with labels.

"We're going to have to wait and see how decisions turn out and how time passes, and what I have to say about issues from time to time as those issues are shaped by other opinions, the opinions of my colleagues, and other published decisions," said Anderson.

Gov. Pawlenty has been a vocal critic of the Massachusetts same-sex marriage decision. He says he has no litmus test for selecting judicial appointments. But he says the process does include some general inquiry into a candidate's judicial philosophy.

"We do often -- and I think we did in this process -- ask the general question, 'On the continuum of judicial activism to judicial restraint, how would you characterize your philosophy generally?' And the candidates respond to that in various ways," said Pawlenty.

A judicial selection committee forwarded Anderson's name and that of one other finalist to the governor. Eric Magnuson chaired the committee, which began with 31 applicants for the job. Magnuson says he's satisfied the governor was able to pick from among the most qualified Minnesotans.

"I think that we've mined a pretty rich vein of talent. I am always surprised at the number of really talented and successful people that are willing to give up the success they have in one arena, and move into the arena of public service," said Magnuson.

In addition to Anderson, Pawlenty also named Elena Ostby of Roseville to the 2nd Judicial District in Ramsey County, and Mary Yunker of St. Cloud to the 10th Judicial District in Sherburne County.

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